December 2005 Archives

Mama T's book roundup for 2005

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Well, with only 2 days remaining in the year and a giant home improvement project in the works, it appears that my finished book list will stay at 62 books for the year. Not bad--some were shorter than "real books", and that's why the total is so high.

Looking back over the list for this year and last year, I would say that last year's reading was far better than this year's. However, there were some keepers in the list. So, on to the 2nd annual Mama T book awards:

Best thing I read this year? Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for drama. A play about a priest and a nun--is he an abuser, or is she reading more into the story than is called for. I think this play is genius.

Runner up: And this is a close one: Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger. I needed to read an epic swashbuckler that also taught by example the redeeming power and beauty of goodness and honor. Absolutely excellent "old-fashioned" book, with a more serious story than first appears.

Best non-fiction of the year? God and the World by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. I am consistently blown away by the clarity of his thinking and writing. The more I read of the Pope's works, the better I like him--and I liked him plenty to start with.

Runner up non-fiction: Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles by Raymond Arroyo. How she brought EWTN from nothing to something--and a radical reliance on Christ--make for thought provoking reading.

Coziest book of the year? A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge. This was a lovely escape into a warm and wonderful place, where everything works out and love wins in the end.

Best new (to me) find? Angela Thirkell. I read the first 3 or 4 of her books this year. I wouldn't want to read one after another, but the are perfect little bon-bons of books--to read after you've read something hard. But there is this little, oh, edge to her books that make them even more enjoyable to me. I have another one on the wait list, waiting for the appropriate time.

Funniest book? Three Men in a Boat. This is the book that most divided our book club--1/2 the women thought it was one of the worst books we had ever read ("How could you slog through this tedious mess?") and 1/2 thinking it was hilariously funny. Obviously I was in the second camp. I will never look at a can of peaches and can openers the same way.

Worst book of the year? Cat on the Scent by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown. Apologies to those of you who are cat lovers, but this one was just dumb. Plus I hate it that the humans in the books never really solved the mystery. I thought that was lame.

Two others that don't fit anywhere else, but that I was impressed by: The Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. I wish I could write a first novel like this one. Inventive and very different from what I expected when I heard the book was about a girl and a spelling bee. And second, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. No action, much, just a portrait of a man living out his call to God in the Midwest--with a wife and son who came to him so late in life. I think many people would dislike this book because "nothing happens" but it stuck in my head.

So, there you have it. Another year of reading. I've listed all 62 books in the extended entry so you can see them if you'd like.

Gift cards from the MamaT perspective

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On this one, I have to respectfully disagree with the Smock.

PapaC's extended family lives in northern Illinois, and includes several nieces and nephews, some of whom are now in the dreaded tween/early teen stage. In past years we've tried it both ways. Here's the problem as I see it:

1. SHIPPING COSTS. The years that we have bought all non-card gifts, we have spent a flat fortune to ship the gifts. For what we spent on shipping (one year > $80--and no that wasn't priority or any other fast method. You just try shipping 2 oversize boxex that hold weird sized presents!) we could have upgraded everyone's gift! Plus, it was a MAJOR headache to find boxes to hold the boxes, etc, etc, etc. When you're buying for 8-10 people and trying to ship, it's expensive.

2. When the kiddos were little, it was easy to pick a gift, though a LOT harder to wrap. It's not that hard to send the latest LEGO set, or a tea set or a dinosaur--whatever the latest craze is in the kids' lives. But now that they are getting older, they want music--which I know nothing about--or some cards for a game deck--that I don't know which they already have 'cause each is different. Is it really that much more thoughtful to flat out ask them which BareNaked Ladies CDs they already have so I can fill in the collection, or is it better to send a Best Buy card so that they can get the one they want?

3. PapaC's brothers are not financially well off. Cash turns into the next school thing the kids need. Now, I'm not anti paying for the school things the kids need, and we have done it before. BUT THAT AIN'T CHRISTMAS FOR THE GROWNUPS! So for my brother and sister in law, who don't ever spend on themselves, we send a Chili's gift card (enough for TWO), a set of movie ticket certificates, and the money for a babysitter. We give them a night out. It is muy appreciated!

4. I give numerous small gifts to grandchildren of my friends. (It's the age thing, you know!) I typically get some funky little Christmassy thing--a Santa pen, a fluffy boa purse, etc, and attach a Slurpee gift card or a Sonic gift card to it. What other gift for $5 can I give that they would like half as much as those? Sorry, I don't think you can come up with an idea.

5. The guys Zteen's age and older that we give gifts to are all saving up for some game or gaming system that is more money than I am willing to spend. But I can help them buy it with a GameStop gift card--and every one of them has remembered that I helped!

6. I love getting gift cards myself. We are currently in tight budget mode--a mode that is likely to last until after college tuition is done. That leaves precious little money for trips to the movies or out to eat on Sundays. A dear friend of ours gave us movie gift cards. We were thrilled! Yee-haw! Chronicles of Narnia--here we come!

That doesn't mean gift cards are all I buy--I buy a mixture of things. When I see something perfect for the folks, they get a regular present in a box. For Craig's sister, who is mentally retarded, we ALWAYS buy a present in a box, shipping costs be d***ed. She wouldn't understand a gift card, or have a way to use it. Send a cute pair of pjs or an Elvis CD, and she is in heaven.

But I'll fight to the death (tee hee!) for the belief that in some cases a gift card is NOT the same as cold, hard cash and isn't a thoughtless present.

So there.

please note: over the past few weeks, i took a random and very non-scientific poll and found that wee ones and tween ones actually desired gift cards because spending them makes them feel "grown up." teenagers opted for the freedom that comes from cash gifts and adults tended to prefer actual gifts, unless the gift cards were redeemable at French bistros, book stores, or gas stations. that said, i offer the following smockgrinch moment.

the way i see it, iffin you aren't going to put any sincere thought into your gift giving why not just fork over the hard cold cash? i mean gift cards -- c'mon why bother?

just because retail chains are offering more creative and whimsical plastic cards for your hard earned green, doesn't mean that the "gift" is any more thoughtful. should we be flattered that the card giver put thought into the design of the card itself? if it took twenty minutes to decide between the gift card with dancing peppermint sticks and the one with the prancing elves, wouldn't that time have been better spent buying an actual gift?

to add insult to injury, by giving a gift card over cash, you are limiting the poor recipient's shopping choices to boot because they cannot spend that $15 widgets gift card at gadgets which is the only store that sells the blasted gizmo they really wanted anyway. and as far as i know, a gift card is one of the few gifts that actually loses face value with time. and here's another kick in the pants. many retailers actually count on gift cards expiring, getting lost or otherwise going unused. and no matter how big i am on profit, as a consumer that notion just chaps my hide.

when you give gift cards over cash all you're really doing is admitting to the fact that you have no gift giving imagination, that the recipient isn't worth your time and effort, and that you do not in fact care enough to send the very best. so if you really want to show how much you care, please send cash.


"Christian friends, your voices raise.

Wake the day with gladness.

God Himself to joy and praise

turns our human sadness:

Joy that martyrs won their crown,

opened heaven's bright portal,

when they laid the mortal down

for the life immortal."

Words: Saint Joseph the Hymnographer, 9th Century, translated from the Greek. Tune: the same one as "Good King Wenceslaus"


Infant holy, Infant lowly, for his bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing,
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging angels singing,
noels ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping
vigil till the morning new
Saw the glory, heard the story,
tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the Babe was born for you.

Traditional Polish carol



Queen of Craftsmen: An Advent Song

Blow on exquisite blow,
The crystal hammers of her love,
Fasten the careful joinings of His bones.
Prophets have sung this craft:
How man may number
These bones, but never break an one of them.

What blueprint guides you, Queen of architects,
To trace sure paths for wandering veins
That run Redemption's wine?

Who dipped your brush, young artist, so to tint
The eyes and lips of God? Where did you learn
To spin such silk of hair, and expertly
Pull sinew, wind this Heart to tick our mercy?

Thrones, Powers, fall down, worshipping your craft
Whom we, for want of better word, shall call
Most beautiful of all the sons of men.

Worker in motherhood, take our splintery songs,
Who witness What you make in litanies:
Queen of craftsman, pray for us who wait.

------------Sr. Mary Francis, P.C.
Friar Journal Volume 16. December 1961, page 32.

Yep, yep, yep!!!

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I was talking with a lady who had been a missionary for forty years, and I noticed that she had exceptionally lovely hands. "Has anyone ever told you your hands are beautiful?'' I asked. The dear soul was so flustered one might have thought I had committed an indecency. She looked at her hands in amazement.

"Why . . . why no. I don't think anyone ever has!'' But she saw that I meant it, and she had the grace to hear the truth. She said thank you.

"Tell it like it is," is the watchword today. But suppose it's lovely? Suppose it's actually beautiful? C. S. Lewis said that the most fatal of all nonconductors is embarrassment. It seems to me that life is all too short to let embarrassment deprive us and our friends of the pleasure of telling the happy truth. Suppose the boy who does your lawn does it fast, trims it perfectly, and takes care of the tools? Suppose the clerk who waits on you happens to be the most gracious one you've ever encountered? Suppose even that your husband--when you stop for once to look at him, to think about him as a person and as a man--seems to you to be the best man you know?

Tell them.

Tell them now.

-----------Elisabeth Eliott

Uh, no.

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You Are Prancer
You are the perfect reindeer, with perfect hooves and perfect flying form.

Why You're Naughty: Because you're Santa's pet, and you won't let anyone show you up.

Why You're Nice: You have the softest fur and the sweetest carrot breath.

Book #62 of 2005 finished!

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#62 The Next Step in the Dance by Tim Gatreaux. My book group read his 2nd collection of short stories, Welding With Children (how can you not like a book with that name????), last year or the year before. He has another collection of short stories, Same Places, Same Things, which I also read and enjoyed.

The Next Step is Gatreaux's first novel. Gatreaux writes mostly about Louisiana and its denizens, rich and poor. The novel is set in Tiger Island, LA, right before the oil crash of the mid 1980's.

It's about a young couple--Colette and Paul Thibodeaux. Paul is happy with his small town life, working as a machinist and dancing with his wife (and anyone else who'll dance) at the honky-tonks on weekends. He loves the web of family--his mama and daddy and gran-pere. Colette wants more than the dusty town and the small life she thinks she's living. So she ups and runs away to California.

Paul follows her--and they both have a measure of financial success in the "big city". But there is no perfect life to run away to, and a series of incidents land them back in Tiger Island during the hardest financial times possible. The struggle just to survive teaches them lessons that bring them back to one another.

This novel was good, but almost too hard for me to read. PapaC and I lost darn near everything in the oil crash. But the moral of the story--that it is love and family that is what is important rings true in the novel and in my life.

One of the things Gatreaux captures so brilliantly is the difference between Louisiana and Texas. Weather. Food. Religion. Music. It all rings perfectly true to this Texan.

Two thumbs up here.

I'm now reading Gatreaux's second novel, The Clearing.

One of the things I like.....


.....about coming to the end of the calendar year is the lists that everyone does: The best _______ of 2005. Now, obviously, some are more helpful than others.

Anyway, here's a link to John Wilson's (of Christianity Today's Book and Culture newsletter) list of the best books of 2005. Not the most important, or the most well-written. Just the ones he liked best. It's a very eclectic list, to say the least!

My favorite hymn from today:

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1. People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

3. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

4. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Sung to the tune Besancon (a French traditional carol). You can hear the midi here if you're not familiar with it.

As sands through the hourglass.....



OK, sorry for the absence, folks, but things are speeding up around here--with WAY too much to do, and WAY too little time to do it. Another big project got sent to my "in box" so to speak, and it doesn't much help.

I keep thinking I should make a list of the things I need to get done before this time next week. But I fear that if I actually SAW what it was I need to do, I would stand stock still--like a deer in the headlights.

I'm afraid to know how much I need to do. So, I guess I'm winging it--one little project at a time. And Christmas will come, whether I'm ready or not, so I'd best just get all I can done, then open my heart to the baby Jesus.

So, if posting is spotty in the next week, please know it isn't because we don't love ya. It's just that the Summas have a boatload of stuff that only Mamas can do!

From Fr. Pavone


I'm sending you this bi-weekly column early, so that along with it I can share with you the good news that Priests for Life's new Society of Apostolic Life was officially approved just yesterday! The Constitutions of the "Missionaries of the Gospel of Life," a new community that will train priests, deacons, and lay missionaries to devote their lives to the unborn, were officially approved and signed by Bishop John Yanta of Amarillo.

So we are up and running, and able to accept seminarians. This is historic for the Church and for the pro-life movement.

There will be a discernment retreat for those who may be interested in the community on January 6-8 in Amarillo, TX. Would you please help spread the word about that and invite those you think may be interested? They may email

Something delish!



15 5 inch corn torillas, cut into 1-inch strips
2 tablespoons corn oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium-size onion, diced
4 jalepenos, stemmed, seeded and minced
3 cans (14 1/2 oz each) diced canned tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
fresh cilantro leaves

Heat oven to 350°. Spray 3 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Place tortilla strips on baking sheets in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove from oven and set aside.

Place oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add garlic, onion, jalapenos. Cook, stirring 3 minutes until softened. Drain the liquid from two of the cans of tomatoes and discard; add tomatoes to pan. Add the third can with the liquid; cook 5 minutes until softened. Stir in broth. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 20 minutes until thickened. Remove pan from heat; stir in beaten eggs, salt, pepper.

Coat a 13x9 inch baking dish with a little sauce. Put half of the tortilla strips on top of the sauce and spoon half of the sauce on top. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat layering.

Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes until the cheese bubbles. Cool slightly; serve warm or at room temperature. Can be baked ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated for several hours. To serve, let stand at room temperature briefly, then reheat at 250° until warmed. Cut into squares for serving; put out sour cream and cilantro as garnishes.

Recipe from Family Circle magazine.


Yummy and good. Worth keeping on file for Fridays!

Overheard at Casa McKid

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McKid's preschool has a music teacher who is just wonderful and has been a constant joy in McKid's life for the past year and a half. They learn all kinds of songs, and McKid is a big one for singing. The school also has a Spanish teacher, and they try to work in Spanish songs when they can.

McKid's mom called me laughing: "You won't believe what she's singing in the bathtub!"

And there it was. A great Christmas song:

Police! No bad dogs!
Police! No bad dogs!

Think Jose Feliciano if you can't tell what she was singing!

Now when the real song comes on the radio, I sing it McKid's way. I probably always will.

Can you give one more gift?

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Please, if you can donate blood, take a minute during this busy time of year and give a gift that could save someone's life. I gave this morning. Stop by your local blood donation center and give a little bit of yourself. Literally!

Fourth great hymn:

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(Can you tell this was a GREAT music day at SMV? I LOVE Advent music!)

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.

Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art:
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child, and yet a king,
born to reign in us for ever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.

By thine own eternal Spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all-sufficient merit
raise us to thy glorious throne.

Words to this one by my man Charles Wesley (how I love his hymns!). Tune Stuttgart. Check out Cyberhymnal if you need the tune.

Third great hymn:

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Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruined race.

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

At Whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou Whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

At SMV, sung to Conditor, proper Sarum melody.

2nd great hymn:


On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings.

Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
make straight the way for God within,
prepare we in our hearts a home
where such a mighty Guest may come.

For thou art our salvation, Lord,
our refuge and our great reward;
without thy grace we waste away
like flowers that wither and decay.

To heal the sick stretch out thine hand,
and bid the fallen sinner stand;
shine forth and let thy light restore
earth's own true loveliness once more.

All praise, eternal Son, to thee,
whose advent doth thy people free;
whom with the Father we adore
and Holy Ghost for evermore.

At SMV, the tune is Winchester New.

One of today's great hymns:


Hills of the North, rejoice;
River and mountain spring,
Hark to the advent voice;
Valley and lowland, sing;
Christ comes in righteousness and love,
he brings salvation from above.

Isles of the southern seas,
sing to the listening earth,
carry on every breeze,
hope of a world's new birth:
In Christ shall all be made anew,
his word is sure, his promise true.

Lands of the East, arise,
he is your brightest morn.
Greet him with joyous eyes,
praise shall his path adorn:
Your seers have longed to know their Lord;
to you he comes, the final word.

Shores of the utmost West,
lands of the setting sun,
welcome the heavenly guest,
in whom the dawn has come:
He brings a never-ending light,
who triumphed o'er our darkest night.

Shout, as you journey home;
Songs be in every mouth;
Lo, from the North they come,
From East, and West, and South.
In Jesus all shall find their rest,
in him the universe be blest!

Sung at SMV to the tune Little Cornard, which can be found at the Oremus hymnal site here.

Book #61 of 2005 finished!

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#61: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.

This one was a reread, because I wanted to refresh the story in my mind before I see the movie. No need to rehash the plot here, because I'm sure you all know it! Oh, but I love this book!

Friday Feast, ya'll

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Name something you'll miss about 2005.

What is one thought that went through your mind today?

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest, how compassionate would you say you are?

Main Course
If you could invent something, what would it be?

Do you prefer salty snacks or sweet treats?

I'm first in the comments box!

I just have to get this off my chest:

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It's not nice when you have a "bang your head on the table" moment first thing in the morning.

The paper these days is full of "The Ten Best ________ to buy for Christmas" articles. I love them, because often they point me toward things I wouldn't have considered before.

So, today's list was about DVDs--and it was broken down into kids, tweens, teens, and adults. Everthing was moving right along until we got to the adults' section.

Different categories, but the one that caught my eye was Romantic. I love a good romantic movie. Chick flicks, even popcorny ones, are a secret delight for me.

Want to know what was listed first under romantic?

Sex and the City first four seasons DVD collection.

Sex and the City? I can think of nothing LESS romantic than that.

Has it come to this? A corruption of romance to the point where romance = sex?


Thing #2,305,093 that I am terrible at!


There is a lot of Christmas preparation that I like.

I like putting up the tree (even the lights, go figure!).

I like shopping, as long as I'm done WAY before the last minute.

I like baking--especially cookies, which are my favorite Christmas treat.

I like cooking Christmas dinner (which is Italian food for us, even though we're NOT Italian).

But wrapping gifts? Yike! I'm terrible at it. I cannot cut gift wrap straight to save my life. I use gift bags as often as possible, but this year it seems that a lot of my gifts are in boxes, so it's wrapping paper for me.

Well, if you ever get a gift that looks like a blind beaver gnawed the paper off the roll, and that a monkey taped the whole thing together, you won't even have to look at the gift tag.

You can assume that it's from me!

He might be right!


It is Advent again. We call this time Advent because it reminds us of what comes from God for the creation of his kingdom on earth. There are many today who sigh to heaven, “Savior, come now!” But they are not sighing for the sake of God’s kingdom. They cry out like this only when they are in trouble and want God to help them. And they don’t know of any help that is more effective than to have a Savior come and put a quick end to their troubles.

C. F. Blumhardt


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I know some of you live where it is cold, cold, cold, and you'll probably laugh at the Mamas, but

Oh, baby, it's COLD outside!

It's 18° outside and with the little bit of wind that's blowing, it feels colder than that! The streets are slick, the schools are closed. Zteen went off to work, but he thought he was lucky--he had to be there at 5:30 a.m., so there were not many other cars on the road. He said he slid a couple of times. The highways might be better (I hope so, since PapaC is driving to work), but the residential streets are pretty icy.

People make fun of us for closing stuff when there's the "least little bit of weather." But, hey! We don't do this very often. We DON'T know how to drive on it (why would we, we almost never have to!) and there's really no need for us to learn. One day every other year or so? Hah! Just make a cup of cocoa listen to the radio, baby!

....shamelessly from Julie D. over at Happy Catholic (link to the right):

Please, please do this for the Mamas!

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now, even if we don't speak often, please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL MEMORY OF YOU AND ME.

It can be anything you want--good or bad--BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE.

When you're finished, post this paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON'T ACTUALLY remember about you.

#56: Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? by John R. Powers. Part of the Loyola Classics series--books by Catholic authors that are being reissued.

I had seen the musical version of this--a version written for the stage by Powers. It's actually nothing like the book at all, but both of them were enjoyable.

The book is the story of the high school years of Eddie Ryan--at a parochial school on the south side of Chicago. The things they ran into--dances with the girls (where all the boys stood on one side of the room and the girls on the other), raging hormones, the trials of acne (just when that new girl noticed you), first cars and the like are probably true to everyone's life. While it didn't make me laugh out loud, it did make me smile.

#57: Unveiling by Suzanne M. Wolfe. Rachel Piers is an art restorer who has just ended a bad marriage. She leaves her job behind in the US and travels to Rome to restore a painting that just may be a lost masterpiece. As she removes layers of grime from the painting, layers of her own life peel away as well, and we learn of the sexual abuse at the hands of a stepfather, the lack of closeness with her mother, a divorce, a miscarriage. However, she also uncovers a plot to take over old masterpieces and a new love. Interesting asides about the Church--it would be interesting to see where the author fell on the continuum of belief.

There is really not enough "there" there. We don't really get a good enough feel for the context of anything that happened in the past--was it one instance of abuse, or many? Why, exactly, was her marriage so bad? Surely just not because her husband was a modern architect and she a restorer of old art. Too neatly plotted. Too easy to find the new love. How could one so seemingly badly damaged by the past so easily fall into the arms of the first good man she meets? Parts of it I liked very much, and it was worth the time to read, but it's not going to be a book that I rush out to add to my library. The borrowed copy is going back without regret.

#58: A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. Fannie Flagg, known to many as a comdienne, is actually a more than decent writer of the Southern novel. Most of you have heard of at least the film adaptation of her novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe. She has also written, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl and Standing in the Rainbow.

This is the story of Oswald T. Campbell, a "nobody" who has never really had any luck in his life. From his abandonment as an infant (he's named after the can of Campbell's soup that's in the basket with him) through a nothing much career and a failed marriage, he is the kind of guy that never really made it in any social way--not able to really fit in with any community. He gets bad news from his doctor--his emphysema is so bad, he'll likely not make it another year, and his time will be even shorter if he doesn't leave the ice and snow of Chicago. He ends up in the tiny town of Lost River, Alabama, where he learns the value of community and love from a little girl named Patsy and a redbird named Jack. For the first time he is valued and has friends. Love and friendship are healing--to him and to Patsy. Sweet, but not saccharine.

#59: The Mirror Crack'd by Agatha Christie. A Miss Marple mystery. A movie star, Marina Gregg and her husband have purchased Gossington Park in St. Mary Mead. At the fete they hold, Mrs. Babcock is poisoned and dies. Obviously the poison must have been meant for the star, though. Or so everyone thinks. Miss Marple solves the case from her home, where she is confined after a nasty bout of bronchitis. Classic Christie!

#60: A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. Short, short, short. A boy's memories of Christmas time growing up. Funny, touching. True. We'll be watching the movie made from this at our December book club meeting.

A great homeschooling tip....

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....for art appreciation, found on the website

"Our 3½ year old son has developed a real appetite for good art through our simple art appreciation program. Each Sunday we select the 'art of the week' and display it on a book holder on the kitchen table. Whenever possible we select art that corresponds with the Church calendar. During snacks or casual meals we move the book holder closer so he can study the detail of the picture. If he has played an active part in selecting the picture he will often come to the table to study the artwork apart from snack times without prompting. The title, artist, symbolism and some of the commentary in the art book are discussed but we do not require any of this to be memorized. For now we are just trying to develop his familiarity and taste for great works of art and it's working!

"Very little money has been spent building our collection of art books. Most of them were acquired from book sales and yard sales for only a few dollars each. Other inexpensive sources of art might include the library, religious art calendars and greetings cards."

What an absolutely cool way to introduce art one masterpiece at a time without making a huge deal about it. Wish I still had a homeschooler!

Come to think of it, maybe I'll just start it for us anyway!

....(Yes, Ellyn, that might mean YOU!!!)

I think this would be a WONDERFUL and very different bridal gift:

The traditional 12 ornaments for a bride's tree

1. Heart- love in the home
2. House - family shelter
3. Flower basket - beauty in the home
4. Basket of fruit - plenty
5. Teapot - hospitality
6. Bird in a nest - confidence in the shelter
7. Pinecone - eternity
8. Animal - peace with nature
9. Fish - Christ, as well as fertility
10. Rose - Virgin Mary
11. Church or angel - God
12. Saint Nicholas - giving and sharing

I have seen these as sets, but they were very expensive. Some of the items, though, could be made or found very inexpensively. If you enclosed a sheet explaining the symbolism of each ornament, I think it would make it very special. And way out of the ordinary!

Found over at

are you a yankee or a rebel?

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the smock's score? "85% (Dixie). Do you still use Confederate money?" i blame this score on my mother's yankee kin.

take the quiz here.


....when did inflatables take over the Christmas decoration world? Now, don't get me wrong, I think some of them are pretty cute (ask me about my 6 foot inflatable pink flamingo sometime!). But do the things BREED or something? Or are they addictive?

In the neighborhoods around my house, if you have one you must have at least FOUR of the things. One house on the way from our house to church has at least EIGHT of them in the yard!

Do you get a bulk discount?

.....from an article on Zenit (HT to Ellyn at Oblique House):

ROME, NOV. 29, 2005 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: What would you consider an appropriate time during Advent to put up Christmas trees, ornaments, lights and other decorations in churches and Christian homes? -- B.O., Lewistown, Pennsylvania

A: This question is simple only in appearance because customs surrounding the celebration of Christmas vary widely among different cultures.

From a strictly liturgical standpoint the preparations for receiving the Christ Child intensify from Dec. 17 onward and this is probably a good time to set up the parish crib, except for the image of the child, which is often added just before Midnight Mass in more or less solemn fashion.

Other parishes prefer to set up the crib on Christmas Eve. There are no official rites regarding this widespread custom.

In those places that use the Advent wreath, it is placed on the first Sunday of Advent. The Book of Blessings issued by the U.S. bishops' conference contains a simple rite for blessing the Advent wreath which may profitably be used.

Dec. 17 or the nearest Sunday might also be a good date to set up Christmas trees and other decorations in Christian homes, but it really depends on local custom and tradition. It is unnecessary, however, to fall under the spell of commercial enterprises which tend to anticipate the Christmas season, sometimes even before Advent begins. (I added the emphasis!)

Because some Christmas decorations have often lost their original religious meaning, churches should be rather circumspect about employing them and should do so with great discretion. If used at all, these decorations are best set up on Christmas Eve so as to respect the integrity of the Advent season.

Christmas trees are preferably located outside the sanctuary and church proper, and are best left in vestibules or church grounds. This has been the practice in St. Peter's Square from the time of Pope John Paul II.

As far as possible, decorations should be religiously themed, leaving plastic reindeer, sugar canes and Santa Clauses in the local shopping mall or at least within the confines of the parish hall for children's events.

Within the church proper, apart from the crib, Christmas may be evoked by using, for example, traditional poinsettias, holly and other traditional elements according to the culture.

As I mentioned, different cultures celebrate Christmas in various ways.

In some countries, such as Venezuela, many people live the novena before Christmas by attending a special "Cockcrow" Mass celebrated at 5 a.m. each day.

In Mexico, during this same period, family and neighbors often take turns in hosting a "posada," a procession in which the group goes from house to house singing a traditional song in which St. Joseph and Mary request, and are refused, hospitality until finally they are festively welcomed at the last home, which has prepared snacks and traditional games for all.


This is interesting to me, because we have an annual discussion of when to put up our tree. Our priest thinks Christmas Eve is the appropriate time, but part of that is colored by the fact that he isn't a mom in a family trying to get everything ready. We tried that a couple of years, but it left far too much to do too late. And we weren't able to turn it into the little family party that it had always been before. Then we tried the Sunday before Christmas--and that was better. Please note, we leave our tree up until Epiphany--on January 6th--lights shining brightly into the night long after our whole neighborhood has hauled their trees to the curb. We do have an artificial tree, so dryness is not a problem for us.

The 17th seems perfect to me. But we'll make FrA happy by not turning on the lights until after mass on Christmas Eve.

Oh, and last year, we kept our nativity set out until Candlemas in February. I became convinced of that when I went on pilgrimage to Rome in late January, and every single church still had theirs out. And St. Peter's life-size set was still in the courtyard.

Friday Feast, ya'll

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When was the last time you did something you would consider courteous, what was it, and who was it for?

If you were to have a painting done of you alone, what would you want the background to be?

Describe your voice.

Main Course
What is something you would like to do, but you're afraid of the risk(s)?

What was the last television show you watched?

I'll answer in the comments boxes with ya'll!



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